A little while ago I finished my first novella, called “The Arena”. I’m currently planning a sequel to it (title unknown) that I’ll be write over the next few months or so.
This is a more-or-less stand alone short story that comes several years before the events of “The Arena 2”, for lack of a better title.
Tandika stood in last dip of ground, looking up at the hill. The last hill—and then he would be beyond the river valley, into the unknown.
His worn cloak snapped in the wind. It was nearly torn to shreds. His meandering journey had taken weeks—thought forest, wasteland, a rolling savanna. He had avoided the river—people lived by water. And he needed no people…not yet.
His parecs was a comforting dry warmth within his shirt, Tandika began to walk the hill, his hand over his brow. The rain was beginning, rushing at him like tiny insects, determined to blind him. His cloak did little to protect him. The weeks had made it threadbare. And the one time he had actually visited the river to wash and resupply his skin of water, the cloak had nearly fallen apart. Only swift action learned in the wilderness with the Jaha had saved it, an improvised needle and thread pulling the cloth back together.
The line of green behind him had spread. There wasn’t enough food to feed the army of snakes, of parecs, that followed him. They were out there, watching him, waiting for his command, but they were no long strung out like a parade. He only had one snake with him now—the one that had come to him second. The one that had killed Juma.
He was cresting the hill. Darkness of heavy clouds lay over the mountains to the right and left that marked the end of the valley that had been his home. He would not pass them again for a long time. Never, perhaps.
Tandika could barely see ten feet in front of him. The sky had descended to earth. Rain wormed into his eyes, the icy cold making him blink and shiver. The snake, not accustomed to the cold, writhed within his well-worn shirt. The friction of the scales was warming, at least.
He began descending the hill, stumbling more than walking, barely able the see where he was going. But it was down, and steeply so. He rested at one point—but forced himself back up. Tandika had heard of men sleeping in the cold storms of this part of the land—they never woke up.
It must have been daybreak when the rain began to calm and fog took its place.
He still could not see and was still soaking from the heavy mist, but at least the wind was not trying to push him over every step of the way.
Tandika had been walking for nearly an hour—pushing past trees and brush now—when he felt the first of the breeze.
He glanced up, expecting another storm but this wind was different. He slowed and sniffed at it. It was piercing, cold, wet…but it carried something he had never smelled before. After hesitating, he continued his walk. He would carry on. There was no going back.
Suddenly the sound of fire, a great rushing, reached his ears. The ground beneath his feet became soft, like fine dust. Sand.
And Tandika broke through the fog. There was something in front of him, wide and shining and going to the horizon and beyond.
The salt air blew his hair, grown long and ragged in his weeks in the wilderness, about his face, obscuring his vision.
But he knew what it was. The sea.